A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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It measures about 2 miles from east to west, with a breadth of a little over a mile. The area is 1,502 acres. (fn. 1) The surface slopes generally from west to east, the lowest ground being in the north-east corner, where the River Croal forms the boundary; this part is called Darley. Will Hill Brook, part of which has been utilized to form reservoirs, forms the northern boundary. The town has grown chiefly in the eastern half of the area, on both sides of the great road from Manchester to Bolton, and the main road, which here joins the former, leading north from Eccles. A third important road, known as Plodder Lane, goes westward through the centre of the township, the hamlet called Dixon Green lying upon it. Highfield lies in the south-west corner; to the east of it is Blindsill, and the hamlet of New Bury is near the middle of the southern boundary. Presto Street, near the eastern boundary, indicates the position of Prestall, which stood on the boundary of Kearsley, perhaps partly within it. Halshaw Moor is in the same quarter. Birch House is situated on the northeast side of the Manchester and Bolton road, there called Market Street. Moses Gate is the district on the northern boundary, through which the same road passes, and Harper's Green lies to the south-west. The population in 1901 numbered 25,925. (fn. 2)
The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's line from Manchester to Bolton (fn. 3) goes through the north-eastern corner of the township, and has a station called Farnworth and Halshaw Moor and another called Moses Gate on the southern and northern limits respectively. The London and North Western Company's line from Bolton through Eccles to Manchester crosses the centre of the township from north to south, and has a station called Plodder Lane, close to Dixon Green.
In 1666 there were ninety-one hearths liable to the tax; the largest houses were those of Urian Leigh and Jonathan Doming, with six hearths each. (fn. 4)
A local board was formed in 1863. (fn. 8) The township is now divided into six wards, denoted by points of the compass, each returning three members to the urban district council, which replaced the local board in 1894.
Gas is now supplied by a company formed in 1854. (fn. 9) There are market, park, baths, and cemetery under public control. Monday and Saturday are the market days. There is a fair held on the third Monday in September. (fn. 10) The Bolton Workhouse is built in the north-west corner of the township.
For a few years there were races on the moor. (fn. 11)
Dorning Rasbotham, writing in 1787, recorded that the Croal was 'extremely subject to floods,' by which 'great quantities of paving stones and gravel' were carried down. It then produced 'trout, shoulers, dace, gudgeons, and eels.' Farnworth Hall, the property of the Duke of Bridgewater, was then standing; butter had been churned by a late tenant by means of a water-mill. The farms were small, and occupied by manufacturers, willing to pay something from the labour of their looms for the convenience of a few acres to support two or three cows. Oats and potatoes were grown. Coal was worked and conveyed to Worsley by subterranean canals. In all the cloughs or dingles the alder grew spontaneously; charcoal was made of it; oak and ash also grew. (fn. 12)
Coins have been found. (fn. 13)
Originally merely a hamlet in Barton, FARNWORTH does not seem to have been recognized as a manor or lordship till late in the 13th century. At that time, it was divided, being held partly of the lords of Manchester directly and partly of those of Barton. (fn. 14) Thus in 1282 'a certain plat' rendered 5s. a year to Robert Grelley. (fn. 15) In 1278 Richard de Redford and Richard the Chief of Farnworth were described as lords of the place. (fn. 16) Soon afterwards the heir of Richard the Chief seems to have disposed of his share to the Hulton and Lever families. (fn. 17)
At the Manchester Barony Survey of 1320 Adam de Lever of Great Lever, Henry de Hulton, and Richard de Redford held Farnworth by homage and fealty, a rent of 6s., and puture of the serjeants. Henry de Hulton further paid 3s. a year for the Mossyhalgh; and John son of Adam de Farnworth held lands by a rent of 6d. and puture; the total rent was thus 9s. 6d. (fn. 18) In 1326 three parts of the manor of Farnworth was settled on the heirs of Adam de Lever. (fn. 19) In 1473 it was found that the Lever portion of the manor paid a rent to Manchester of 3s. 6d., the Hulton portion 4s. 6d., and the Redford portion —divided between Adam Prestall and Richard Seddon —1s.; a total of 9s. (fn. 20) The 6d. from Geoffrey de Farnworth has been omitted. (fn. 21)
Of these different shares of the manor the principal was that of the Hultons, and was usually described absolutely as 'the manor.' The Lever share has descended with Great Lever to the Earl of Bradford; the descent of the Redford part, which seems to have been diminished by many alienations, is given under Kearsley.
The Hultons of Farnworth descended from John, said to have been a younger son of David de Hulton. (fn. 22) Henry son of John de Hulton is frequently mentioned about the end of the 13th century, (fn. 23) and, as stated above, held a share of the manor in 1320. John the son and successor of Henry (fn. 24) had a grant of Harpurhey in Manchester from John La Warre in 1327, (fn. 25) and a few years later had Oakenley in Horwich. (fn. 26) He was followed by William de Hulton, who, apparently as a child, had a lease of Mulwardscroft in Manchester in 1337, (fn. 27) and made a settlement on his heirs male of the manors of Rumworth and Farnworth, and various messuages and lands in Farnworth, Rumworth, Lostock, Kearsley, Irlam, Barton, Breightmet, Snydale, Westhoughton, Middleton, Great Lever, Bolton, and Lower Hulton; also in Worsley, Manchester, Harpurhey, Denton, Gorton, and Gotherswick. (fn. 28)
William lived on till late in the century, (fn. 29) and was followed by his son John (fn. 30) and his grandson James, who came into possession at the beginning of the reign of Henry VI. (fn. 31) He had two sons, William and John, whose descendants enjoyed the manor. William Hulton (fn. 32) had a son John, whose only child Alice married Adam Hulton of Over Hulton. The manor and entailed lands on John's death in 1487 (fn. 33) passed to his brothers and their heirs; Richard, the eldest, was an idiot; (fn. 34) Christopher, who married Margaret one of the daughters and co-heirs of Sir James Harrington of Wolfage, was one of the feoffees of his brother John; (fn. 35) and James left a son William, who succeeded to Farnworth. (fn. 36) His son John died before him, leaving an infant son William as heir to his grandfather, who died in 1556, (fn. 37) and two daughters, Christian and Katherine. (fn. 38)
The estates went to the descendants of John the younger son of James Hulton, named above. John, it is stated, had a son Alan, whose eldest son John Hulton (fn. 39) was a clerk, and the right descended to a grandson Alan son of John's brother Alexander. (fn. 40) The younger Alan had several sons—Thomas, John, George, and William; George is stated to have received the larger share of the inheritance. (fn. 41) George Hulton, who was the issue of a second marriage, left sons and daughters; (fn. 42) they sold the manors of Farn worth and Rumworth, and the rest of the inheritance. (fn. 43) The manors were acquired by the Hultons of Over Hulton. (fn. 44)
John the elder brother of George Hulton was seated at Darleys in Farnworth. He died at Blackburn 21 July 1606, holding also lands in the Fylde and at Over Darwen. Darleys was held of Nicholas Mosley as of the manor of Manchester, and was entailed on John Hulton's male issue, with remainder to George Hulton of Farnworth; John Hulton the son and heir was thirteen years of age. (fn. 45)
The small part of the manor held by a family which adopted the local name, appears as early as 1246, when Emma de Farnworth mother of Adam claimed half an oxgang of land then in possession of Adam the Chief. (fn. 46) Nine years later Adam de Farnworth claimed that Gilbert de Barton, as mesne lord, should acquit him of the service for his oxgang and a half demanded by the superior lord, Thomas Grelley. (fn. 47) It was probably about this time that Gilbert de Barton released his claim to half of the 2s. rent due from Adam's land. (fn. 48) Adam left two sons, Richard (fn. 49) and Roger. (fn. 50) Of these the former left issue, (fn. 51) but the inheritance, or the chief part of it, appears to have descended to the heirs of Roger. (fn. 52) By the end of the 15th century the heir was Nicholas Mitchell alias Farnworth, (fn. 53) who, in conjunction with his mother, sold it to Dame Joan Stanley, the heiress of Worsley, (fn. 54) and it has since remained part of the Worsley estate, now owned by the Earl of Ellesmere.
Some of the Lever estate in Farnworth was granted to the Byroms on the marriage of John Byrom with Margaret daughter of William Lever in I437. (fn. 55) Part was sold to Adam Crompton in 1584. (fn. 56)
The Hospitallers had lands in Farnworth before 1292. (fn. 57) It was held under them by the Worsleys of Booths, (fn. 58) who, however, did not long retain it. After the suppression of the order their Farnworth estate became the property of the Earls of Derby, under whom the Rishton family held it, having, it is said, purchased from the Worsleys in 1573. (fn. 59) The mansion-house, known as Birch House, has passed through many hands. In the latter half of the 18th century it was the property and residence of Dorning Rasbotham, a man of literary tastes, who made collections for the history of Lancashire; he died in 1791, and there is a mural tablet to commemorate him in Deane Church. (fn. 60)
The land-tax returns of 1789 show that the township was divided among a great number of proprietors. Of these the Duke of Bridgewater contributed the largest individual share of the tax—about a twelfth. (fn. 64)
The commons were inclosed in 1798. (fn. 65)
There are four churches in the township in connexion with the Established religion; of these All Saints', Moses Gate, opened in 1881, is a chapel of ease to St. John's, Halshaw Moor. (fn. 66) St. James's, New Bury, was built in 1862–5; the patronage is vested in trustees. (fn. 67) St. Peter's, consecrated in 1886, is in the gift of the vicar of Farnworth. (fn. 68) Of St. Thomas's, Dixon Green, built in 1879, the Bishop of Manchester is patron. (fn. 69) The Church Army has a mission hall.
The Wesleyan Methodists have five churches— Wesley, in Church Street, Moses Gate, Long Causeway, Plodder Lane, and New Bury. (fn. 70) The Primitive Methodists and Independent Methodists also each have one. (fn. 71) The New Connexion formerly had a preaching room at New Bury, but gave it up in 1846. (fn. 72)
The Baptists opened a chapel in 1879; (fn. 73) this was succeeded by the present church in 1907.
The Congregationalists were the first to establish a place of worship in Farnworth, the old chapel being built in 1808. Now they have three churches. (fn. 74)
The Roman Catholic church of St. Gregory the Great originated in 1852. After using an old warehouse and other buildings a small chapel was built, which in twenty years' time proving too small, the present church in Presto Street was erected, and opened in 1876.